How to write a one author paper?


Dear all,

so far I have written a few papers with other people (mainly professors) and these were accepted via the peer review process. Now I have written a "one author paper". Perhaps it is coincidence yet this time the reviewers want much more specific information regarding how and why I came to certain conclusions. How do you justify yourself in a paper? Most of the issues brought forward are based on the literature, yet obviously I make choices regarding what to include, how to approach issues, how to prioritise etc.

Anyone any experience of writing these one author papers and in "validating" yourself? Can you write something like: "I include this because....", " Based on my experience I think.... etc.


I've written numerous one author papers. As a historian it's normal within my field. I have 2 published, 3 in review, and 3 more in progress at the moment.

They are all written in the passive third person. No "I" at all. It is possible to write assertively without using "my" or "I". And you can write very very assertively. I've been told off in the past by my supervisor for writing too dismissively of other people's research in the literature review part of one of my papers ;-)

Use words like "This technique was chosen in this case because ..." and stuff like that. But only write in the first person if you are sure that is normal in your field. And "Based on my experience I think" sounds weak. Someone could read it and doubt your decision making. Make it stronger.


Hi Bilbo,

thanks for your reply. Very impressive what you are producing, I envy you.

Yes, I agree with you, "based on my experience I think" sounds rather weak.

The problem I have is that I have written a sort of opinion paper, and although I quite knowledgeable in the field I am writing about, I am not an authority (not a professor, not a well known key author etc.). Although I reference the things that I am stating the reviewers want to know exactly how I came to that conclusion (e.g. systematic literature review, expert interviews etc.). So, how could I make it more convincing what I write? Based on years of study....?

And also, would you write something like: The author is aware this may be biased.... or: On purpose this is written in this way with the aim to generate discussion etc.?


I wouldn't write "Based on years of study". I would just write something much shorter. Don't feel you need to justify yourself. Just be assertive.

Writing something along the lines of you are trying to encourage discussion is fine. Since that's what you're doing. It doesn't undermine what you have written at all.

One of my pieces currently in review is very similar to yours. It's based largely on my doctoral research (completed), but is a wider discussion piece. Quite contentious in places. Primarily aimed to stir things up, and promote further new relevant research. I was quite assertive though. And you do not need to justify yourself.

I'd be happy to look through your paper and come up with more specific advice on being assertive / rewording. If you want to do that PM me and we'll exchange email addresses etc.


Oh and for how you came to the conclusion just add more details of the methodology and evidence that you used. This can be done quite succinctly, as you suggest, or in more detail, if appropriate.